Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 21st 2014 Contents B2
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt September 21, 2014
Nestled between Arima and Sangre
Grande is the Aripo Savannas Envi-
ronmentally Sensitive Area---1,788
hectares of ecological treasure.
The largest remaining natural savanna
in our country, this area fans out from
the foothills of the Northern Range.
Dense layers of cemented clays,
impervious to water, shape the natural
savanna ecosystem. To cope with this,
intriguing plants like the carnivorous
Sundew Plant (Drosera capillaris) have
evolved to trap and eat insects and
Rich plant life
The concentration of flora in this area
may be one of the highest in the country.
There are 457 plant species recorded so
far: 38 are restricted to the Savannas,
16 to 20 are rare or threatened, and two
are endemic floral species.
Several distinct vegetation habitats
• Open savanna: Low-growing veg-
etation over a flat plain; 90+ plant
• Marsh forest: Forests growing on
land which gets marshy in the wet sea-
son; 118 plant species
• Palm forest: Palm communities
found on the periphery of the Open
Savannas. The iconic Moriche Palm, a
South American plant species, towers
over the savannas in regal splendour
and is found nowhere else in the
Fantastic birding area
The wide array of fauna---especially
bird life---makes this savanna a vast out-
door museum of living organisms.
There are 250+ species of birds here.
These include: the rare and endangered
scarlet shouldered parrotlet; the sulphury
flycatcher; the white-tailed golden throat
hummingbird; the savanna hawk; and
the red-bellied macaw.
If you are very lucky, you can also
catch sight of animals which live here,
too, such as: red brocket deer, armadillo,
porcupine and matte.
In this area, back in the 1930s, selected
timber harvesting went on---including
galba and firewood---marking the begin-
ning of the degradation of this Envi-
ronmentally Sensitive Area. Then during
WW2 in the 1940s, 1,660 hectares of
the savannas and adjacent lands were
leased to the United States Armed Forces
for a military base. Fort Read was estab-
lished, and soldiers built bunkers, drains
and roadways, some of which are visible
today. In the 1950s, Fort Read was
returned to the Government.
Threats to wildlife
The savannas have been threatened
by fires, quarrying, residential and agri-
cultural squatting, and poaching.
When you compare aerial photographs
from 1969 to 1994, you can see how
much the palm marsh forest areas have
shrunk due to human activities.
Recognising the savannas unique bio-
logical features and scientific value, the
Aripo Savannas were earmarked to be
a scientific reserve in the 1970s. In 1987,
the Aripo Savannas were declared a Pro-
hibited Area under the Forests Act, at
last legally restricting extractive uses
there. In 2007, the EMA formally
declared the Aripo Savannas to be an
Environmentally Sensitive Area.
Tours for awareness
To help protect and preserve this valu-
able nature site, the local organisation
Sundew Tours conducts public tours
which can help you learn about the area s
ecology. The EMA partnered with Sun-
dew Tours in 2012 for its Aripo Savannas
Revealed---National Photography Com-
petition---to raise awareness, and help
tell the story of the Savannas through
photography. In 2014, as part of its ESA
Sensitisation project, the EMA again
partnered with Sundew Tours to run
free guided public tours.
Valuing our own riches
The Aripo Savannas are a unique,
beautiful national treasure that we must
preserve for our children, grandchildren
and the generations to come. Like the
Magnificent Seven buildings around the
Queen s Park Savannah, the Aripo
Savannas are an important ecological
space right here at home. The Aripo
Savannas are one of our three priceless
ecological and cultural spaces: the other
two are the Matura National Park and
the Nariva Swamp. In preserving places
like these, we preserve beautiful sources
of plant and animal life special to T&T.
NEXT WEEK: The Nariva Swamp
Managed Resource Protected Area.
The Scarlet shouldered parrotlet is
one of many bird species that live in
the Aripo Savannas.
For more information, visit
www.ema.co.tt. If you have
any comments or would like
to contribute to this column,
please respond to
snakes, crabs and
large insects. They
usually sit on an
open high perch
from which they
swoop down on
they will also
on foot. PHOTO:
Environmentally Sensitive Areas...
Rich life of the
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